National Black Cancer Awareness Week: Breaking the Stigma

Awareness & Research

It’s that time of year again. National Black Family Cancer Awareness Week runs through June 21, bringing a week full of opportunities to help close the health care disparity gap. 

This initiative was established by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Oncology Center of Excellence to strengthen cancer awareness within the Black community. Why the Black community? Past studies have shown that it is one of the country’s most vulnerable communities for health care disparity. 

President Joseph Biden signed Presidential Executive Order 13985 in January 2021 to place more focus on advancing racial equity and to support underserved communities. National Black Family Cancer Awareness Week supports this mission and also celebrates the 50th anniversary of the National Cancer Act.

Tamron Little in Miles for Meso T-shirt
Peritoneal mesothelioma survivor Tamron Little participates in the annual Miles for Meso 5K to help raise awareness of mesothelioma.

Change Starts With You & Me

“The change I want to see must first begin in me.” Living in a world where I have seen and experienced the results of health care disparities makes these song lyrics resonate with me. Growing up I was seen as the trendsetter, the leader, the one who thought outside of the box and who asked questions. A lot of questions! 

When I was young, if I saw or heard things that didn’t seem ethical to me I wanted to know why. In my earlier years, before moving in with my grandparents, I was a part of the “vulnerable” community, and even as a child I desired change. 

When I was first diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma at the age of 21 I was referred to an oncologist who didn’t offer me the help I needed. My appointments consisted of a basic blood count test for monitoring. Before being referred to him I was given a poor prognosis of just 18 months to live. Clearly I wasn’t receiving the best care possible if this was all that was being done. No treatment plan or possible referrals to a mesothelioma specialist were offered.

You are your own best advocate. My change began with me advocating for myself. When faced with a cancer diagnosis you should explore all options available. If this means getting a second opinion or creating your own path to finding more options then do what you must do. If a patient isn’t presented with options, then how can they know something else is out there? 

Doing My Part

Not everyone’s story is like mine and that’s what’s unique about it. We learn so much from others’ experiences, and being the change we want to see in our lives will help others. I use my experiences as a mesothelioma survivor to inspire people. I share my story to spread mesothelioma awareness and I share my experiences to spark change within the health care community. 

So, I am doing my part by being an advocate and getting the word out about National Black Family Cancer Awareness Week. You can join me in this effort as well by taking to social media and engaging with #BlackFamCan on all social media outlets. Another way to help spread awareness is by sharing your story or family history with cancer and how you are striving to be the change. 

For more information on this initiative and how you can help spread awareness, please visit the FDA Oncology Center of Excellence website.